By John Schaffner
The name of the school had changed, but there was a familiarity about the place and the faces of those who attended the 40th reunion of the 1968 class of William Franklin Dykes High School in Buckhead on Aug. 15.
They were neither the first nor the last graduating class of Dykes High, now the home of Sutton Middle School, but the 30 to 40 mature graduates enjoyed sharing their memories, their friendships and a tour through the halls and classrooms they visited daily four decades before.
Most of the members of the 1968 class who attended the reunion still live in the Atlanta area. But some traveled distances to be with their old schoolmates and friends.
Cathy Neff came from Cincinnati. Jim Rickenbacker came from Winter Park, Fla. Shay Howard came from Franklin, Tenn., and Bob Weathers drove up from Columbus, Ga., to mention a few.
They were welcomed and escorted on a tour of the school by Audrey Sofianos, who came from Indiana a year ago to become principal of Sutton Middle School.
Sofianos showed the group a book of poetry copyrighted in 1966 that recently was found in the school’s library. Inside the front cover, a message said it was the property of Dykes High School, and it had the names of people who were at the school at that time.
“So the memory is still alive here, because we have several of these still in the building,” Sofianos said.
This was a time to share memories for class of 1968 members.
“You remember the old Shoney’s around town that had the Big Boy with the hamburger? We showed up at school one morning and that (Big Boy figure) was above the entrance to the school looking down on the parking lot,” recalled Jim Dolive of Atlanta. “We don’t know how it got there, much less how they got it up on the school. We don’t have any idea who did that, but it was a pretty big thing that happened.”
Dolive started at Dykes in 1963 and graduated in 1968. The school was eighth through 12th grade at the time.
“I remember the lockers and the combination locks on the lockers,” Neff said. “I was always afraid I wasn’t going to be able to remember my combination. Even after I left school, I had nightmares about not being able to remember that combination.”
“Our principal, Douglas Rumble, was probably one of the finest men I have ever known,” Weathers said. “He taught at Atlanta Boys High back in the 1940s. In fact, he taught my father at Boys High.”
Weathers recalled that North Fulton and Northside (now North Atlanta) had run out of room. “Dykes was the premier public school for college prep. It really was a good school academically.” He estimated there were 220 students in the class of 1968 and 1,000 to 1,200 in the whole school.”
Weathers recalled that Billy Payne, who brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996, was the quarterback of the football team when Weathers was in eighth grade. Payne was in the first graduating class from William Franklin Dykes High School in 1963. That class had its 45th reunion in June and toured Sutton Middle School.
“We had some really good teams early on,” Weathers said. “We had a really good track team. We won the state a couple of times in cross country. Then a lot of coaches left and went to Jefferson, and we had a little period where we weren’t doing quite as well.
“Looking back, it was a great school at the time. The area was so good. You had Chastain Park. They used it for golf, for cross country and track. It was just a beautiful setting.”
The consensus was that the high school opened in 1960 or 1961. It became Sutton Middle School in 1974, with the last graduating class of Dykes High being the class of 1973.
Sutton seventh-grade teacher Lisa Kepler was a member of that 1973 class and was on hand at the end of the school day Aug. 15 to renew friendships with some of those from the class of 1968.
Her class just celebrated its 35th reunion, but she is still there in the same building — a part of the new wave at Sutton Middle School.